As darkness settled on the evening of 21 June 1986, thirty-five people gathered on Baker Beach in San Francisco to watch the burning of a 2.4m wooden man. They could not realise that decades later this impromptu and seemingly inconsequential gathering would grow to become a cultural mainstay for many of the world’s most innovative and influential corporations.
Fast forward 33 years to the end of August 2019, when more than 70,000 people will gather in the Nevada desert to take part in the annual 9 day Burning Man. Many of them will be entrepreneurs, business leaders and community influencers just like you, seeking inspiration for the types of ideas that can only emerge when you step away from your normal routine and connect with a community of likeminded people.
If you’ve never heard of Burning Man, it can best be described as a radical temporary community. The organisers call it a “crucible of creativity”. There is music and art but it is not a festival. “Burners”, as the community members call themselves, are dedicated to inclusion, participation, and deep transformation. There is no central organising group curating their experiences, but those who attend know that the point of getting out of their normal life and into the Burner Community is to open the mind, drop the ego, and get in flow. It is these principles that attract leaders such as Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, long term Burners who are also known to have preferred job candidates who had participated in Burning Man.
While it’s easy to brush aside the habits of Silicon Valley types and deem them irrelevant to the more traditional businesses within which most of us operate, consider instead a more conservative annual gathering, the World Economic Forum, held every January in the deep snow mountains of Davos, Switzerland. The Google founders are both regulars at this gathering too. Here, one would suspect, there are less vivid displays of free-spirited creativity but, when you peel away the stark superficial differences between the two gatherings, you’ll discover that 30,000 people make their way to Davos for the very same reason as those who head into the desert; participating face-to-face in collaborative experiences triggers neural shifts that heighten creativity, deepen trust, and switch on a collective intelligence that can transform individual ideas into world-changing results.
It’s a belief in these same principles that motivated us to host Spark2019. We wanted Brisbane leaders to have a place for the give-and-take of meaningful collaborative experiences. It wasn’t as avant-garde as Burning Man or as expensive as a trip to Davos, but it was an inspiring space within which ideas flowed, connections were made and perspectives changed. The only “radical” thing leaders needed to do was step away from their busy schedule for a day, put their routine on hold, and let the spark take hold!